Johannesburg needs clear infrastructure delivery plan to attract investment
To examine challenges posed by, and find possible solutions to, Africa‘s urban infrastructure deficit as a result of rapid urban growth, international law firm Pinsent Masons has launched a thought leadership programme, which will bring together numerous experts from its network of 23 global offices.
Speaking at the inaugural event hosted by the law firm, in Johannesburg, Pinsent Masons partner George Sibandaemphasised the importance of cities in promoting national and global economic growth, addressing inequality and aiding skills growth for the youth.
He cited a report from The Centre for Development and Enterprise, stating that, “cities produce more than 80% of global economic output. No country has grown to middle class status without urbanising, and none has grown to high income status without vibrant cities. Cities, therefore, are key platforms for national, regional and global growth”.
Sibanda added that Johannesburg’s population is expected to reach ten-million people in 2018 and rise to 11.6-million by 2030. “The infrastructure backlog in Johannesburg is high. The need to close a widening infrastructure gap in the city goes to the heart of improving the South African economy. There is a shortfall from the fiscus and developing a framework to attract private funding is vital to plug this funding gap.”
As an aid to considering the overarching and central question – how does a city, such as Johannesburg, attract significantly more private investment in its infrastructure – Pinsent Masons proffered a five-pillar framework.
This includes a transformation in infrastructure governance and leadership to unlock significant private investment to close the funding gap; and drawing up a long-term (at least 25 years) evidence-based plan for city-wide infrastructure as seen in other advanced and developing economies.
Further, the law firm suggested that, through streamlining and developing a clear and ambitious infrastructure delivery strategy, a modern and innovative infrastructure sector can be supported, while it also called for the development of skills necessary to improve delivery of major infrastructureinvestments.
University of the Witwatersrand School of ConstructionManagement and Economics lecturer Professor Sam Laryea added that planning was absent in growing African cities, citing congestion, which hampered economic growth as people spent long hours getting to and from work.
“Weak leadership and management in government and technical departments in many African cities have resulted in infrastructure deficits and basic infrastructure that is inadequate to support accelerated development and rapid economic growth,” he noted.
He added that providing infrastructure using smart technology could aid the youthful African population to pursue their work ambitions and, in so doing, aid growth. In this regard, smart technology will also help bridge the inequality gap as people gain access to skills and ideas remotely.
Decoupling political elections from long-term infrastructureplans was also seen as an imperative. The private sector is more likely to respond to a long-term evidenced plan that guaranteed risks and demonstrated the political will regardless of the election cycle.